Dealing with land conflicts in Amuru, Uganda by Otim Denis Barnabas

This article was originally published on Insight on Conflict. The leading online resource for local peacebuilding.

Otim Denis Barnabas, Ugandan peacebuilding organisation, the Refugee Law Project, discusses land disputes in the Amuru district of Uganda. The return of displaced people after the LRA conflict, and the discovery of oil and other minerals, have led to simmering tensions and conflict.

As a researcher, I have keenly followed land related disputes in Amuru district, Uganda. I have come to the conclusion that land disputes in Amuru can be resolved only if we engage with the truth, without political interruptions and manipulation.

Land conflicts have eaten up Amuru district – especially in Lakang and Apaa – denying the district any meaningful development. Simmering conflicts remain unresolved, with secretive, vested  interests preventing meaningful conflict resolution.

Since 2007 people in Amuru have been subject to forceful evictions, torture, intimidation and all kinds of physical and psychological trauma. Their response to such actions has been a hardening of people’s views of those responsible, as one man lamented “I am not afraid to be killed for the right cause, this is our land”. It is important to know the truth about the land dispute, and how best to arrive at a resolution. The challenge is that, given the differences of the parties involved and the absence of a meaningful mechanism and response to land disputes in Uganda, the dispute in Lakang is likely to remain unresolved.

Background to the conflict

To understand the conflict, it is important take into consideration the historical legacy of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict and the subsequent displacement of people from the area. As the conflict died down and people began to return and resettle, much of northern Uganda experienced increasing land disputes at all levels of society – from family and clan to sub-county and district levels. This potential for conflict was exacerbated as district borders were redrawn and outside investment came in to take advantage of the oil and mineral deposits in the region.

How should development proceed?

It is clear is that everybody in northern Uganda wants development. Development is needed, the open question is how should it be done. The last time I visited Lakang I was told that the President had visited the area to launch a sugarcane plantation project. Though this would sound like development to many Ugandans, it has never sounded right to the locals of Lakang. The people of Lakang had two causes of concern: one – they alleged that they have not been consulted, and two; on whose land is the sugar cane plantation going to take place?

What I learnt from the locals was that they are being conditioned to trade their land for any kind of development, be it for education, health and other vital infrastructure. To the locals of Lakang, unless they are meaningfully engaged and consulted, it shall be difficult to implement and sustain a sugar cane development project.

Local people ignored

The unfortunate bit is that the land dispute in Lakang has invited a number of outside interests and opportunists. Worrying is that the “land owner” is not being heard, let alone being meaningfully represented in any negotiations and dealings.

The scenario in Lakang is unique and has been described by two widespread beliefs among locals. The first is that the areas status as a game reserve is used as a pretext to use force and intimidation to evict locals from the land. The second belief is that some individuals are benefiting from the areas rich mineral wealth, without compensating the locals.

These beliefs  whether perceived or real, have been serious sources of discontent in Lakang. A deeper understanding into the land interests and disputes in Lakang need to be understood – and quickly. The oral narratives – such as “I was a major”, “If we had guns” – that characterises discussion in this volatile area highlights the frustrations and discontent and must not be ignored. What is important at the moment is speak the truth and meaningfully engage the affected population.

This article was originally published on Insight on Conflict. The leading online resource for local peacebuilding.

Views: 74

Comment

You need to be a member of Peace and Collaborative Development Network to add comments!

Join Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Sponsored Link

Please Pay What You Can to Support PCDN

Please consider Paying What You Can to help PCDN grow. We encourage you to consider any amount from $1 and up. Read the SUPPORT page prior to making a payment to see PCDN's impact and how your payment will help.

Sponsored Link

Translate This Page



PCDN NETWORK TWITTER FEED

PCDN Guidelines and Share Pages

By using this site you're agreeing to the terms of use as outlined in the community guidelines (in particular PCDN is an open network indexed by Google and users should review the privacy options). Please note individual requests for funding or jobs are NOT permitted on the network.

Click BELOW to share site resources Bookmark and Share
or Share on LINKEDIN


FOLLOW PCDN on TWITTER, FACEBOOK or GOOGLE+

Google+

 

Latest Activity

Maha Hilal posted discussions
9 minutes ago
M. Ashaq Malik liked Craig Zelizer's discussion Call for Applications, Journalists and Writers Foundation, Peace Projects Funding (open to applicants worldwide) of up to $50,000
1 hour ago
Profile IconJoshua Maynard, Lauren Gould, Mawuse Agblobi and 3 more joined Peace and Collaborative Development Network
1 hour ago
Rakibul Hasan shared a profile on Facebook
2 hours ago
Anastasia Rosen Jones posted a blog post
4 hours ago
Yasin Cetindil liked Craig Zelizer's discussion Call for Applications, Journalists and Writers Foundation, Peace Projects Funding (open to applicants worldwide) of up to $50,000
5 hours ago
Craig Zelizer liked Craig Zelizer's discussion Call for Applications, Journalists and Writers Foundation, Peace Projects Funding (open to applicants worldwide) of up to $50,000 for ap roject
6 hours ago
Craig Zelizer posted discussions
6 hours ago

© 2014   Created by Craig Zelizer.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service